How do lawyers stay in business? Grand Theft Auto and Rockstar is How

The estimable Jack Thompson
The estimable Jack Thompson
How do lawyers stay in business? Oh, of course by spurious ‘brand protection’ claims like the one Rockstar Games/Take 2 Interactive have filed. This one is related to a BBC drama called Game Changer, starring Bill Paxton and Daniel Radcliffe.

The drama – as reported in The Independent back in April – is based on David Kushner’s 2012 book, Jacked: The Outlaw Story Of Grand Theft Auto. However, the BBC apparently is also using highly respected game industry insiders such as Guy Cocker to add depth to Kushner’s controversial narrative.

The Harry Potter star will play Sam Houser, the co-founder of video game developer Rockstar Games, in the 90-minute film, Game Changer.

Bill Paxton plays Jack Thompson, the campaigning Florida lawyer, who was determined to prove a link between violent crime and people who played the game.

In my time as a games journalist (from 1988 until 2014) I covered the goings on between Thompson and Rockstar, evening getting involved with in an email exchange or two with Jack in which he had a damned good go at goading me, bless him. You can get all the background to the Jack Thompson vs GTA saga over at my old workplace The basic story is that Jack, a lawyer from Florida fancied his chances of taking down Take 2, Rockstar and the GTA franchise for the good of all the children’s wellbeing (and possibly his own profile) due to the moral turpitude but maybe not the gun violence, represented. It’s a long, grinding tale of one man’s selfless search for profile versus one company’s intense desire to represent modern culture as nihilistically and profitably as possible.

It was sort of a Loser-Loser kind of a case. Disclosure, despite knowing people who worked on the games, and appreciating their technical prowess, I’ve never been able to stand playing them for more than an hour or so unless I was reviewing them. But that does not mean that I want to see some bible-toting, self-righteous lawyer stop other people from experiencing what I call nihilist, teen tedium and giving their cash (or their parents’ cash) to whoever they damn well like.

Anyway, Take 2’s lawyers don’t like the idea that the BBC is making a drama out of their brand so they’ve created a crisis. In order to tell the world about this, they have used an industry mouthpiece or ‘independent news outlet’ called IGN to publish their intention. (IGN, by the by, was set-up by my old boss Chris Anderson, before being bounced around media owners including Ziff Davis and Rupert Murdoch like a bemused whore in a fallow Californian Gold Rush town. But more of that later maybe.) Here’s the quote:

“Take-Two Interactive has filed suit against the BBC for trademark infringement based on their movie currently titled ‘Game Changer’ as it relates to Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto video game series.

“While holders of the trademarks referenced in the film title and its promotion, Rockstar Games has had no involvement with this project. Our goal is to ensure that our trademarks are not misused in the BBC’s pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games. We have attempted multiple times to resolve this matter with the BBC without any meaningful resolution. It is our obligation to protect our intellectual property and unfortunately in this case litigation was necessary.”

Personally, I hope the BBC beats them over the heads with a baseball bat, then drives over their twisted corpses in a drives-like-a-whale Fjord 4wd that they stole from another lawyer before taking all the lawyer-corpse lawyer money then flying off in a helicopter and blasting the Lawyer HQ with side-mounted missiles.

I should also note that Take 2/Rockstar hasn’t bothered to go after the Beeb for this 2013 radio documentary, Grand Theft Auto (listen to it here)

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